With the Dutch EU Council presidency making antimicrobial resistance one of their priorities and urging a 'One Health' approach, the progress of the veterinary medicinal products regulation has been thrust into the spotlight. The draft regulation will be voted on in the European Parliament's environment and agriculture committees later in February.
Françoise Grossetête, the Parliament's rapporteur on veterinary medicinal products, is enthusiastic around the prospects of progress.
"The Dutch have considerable experience in fighting antimicrobial resistance", she says, noting in particular that they have, "put highly effective policies in place to reduce antimicrobial use in veterinary medicine."
The French MEP is pleased that; "the fight against resistance to antibiotics appears at the top of their EU health agenda."
She is urging the rapid adoption of the new regulation on veterinary medicines, which seeks stricter conditions for how antimicrobials are used in farms.
"Human resistance stems in part from misuse of antimicrobials products in animal health," she says, and calls on the Dutch Presidency to make the veterinary medicines file a priority in Council.
The S&D group's shadow rapporteur for the file, Claudiu Ciprian Tanasescu, echoes Grossetête's concerns; "Misuse and overuse, together with the lack of new antibiotics available on the market, spurs antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals."
He urges member states to work together, to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance. "These hazardous bacteria do not respect borders. We have to safeguard the efficacy of antibiotics not only in healthcare settings, but also in farms. It is not just the national authorities, patients and physicians that need to be on board, but also veterinarians, farmers and consumers."
The Romanian MEP wants to ban the use of antimicrobials in routine prophylaxis. "This practice should only be authorised in exceptional cases," he says.
"These should be further defined by the European Medicines Agency. It is also vital that the regulation sets stricter standards for metaphylactic use. This should be limited to sick animals and those at high risk of contamination."
European United Left/Nordic Green Left group shadow rapporteur, Merja Kyllönen, fully supports an end to routine prophylactic use of antimicrobials. "We need to safeguard the continuing efficacy of antimicrobials used to treat serious human disease," she says.
Although she firmly believes that, "the overuse of antimicrobials in human medicine is the main driver of antimicrobial resistance", she is keen to point out that both the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation say regular prophylactic use in farming is also a major contributor.
"Healthy animals farmed in hygienic conditions do not need routine doses of antimicrobials to prevent disease and keep their meat and milk safe for consumption. Only animals raised in industrial conditions are dependent on routine prophylactic use of antimicrobials to prevent disease. When we take good care of our animals we don't need to fill them with antibiotics."
The Finn acknowledges that there will always be exceptions, but, like Tanasescu, says these must always be clearly defined. "For example, prophylaxis in individual animals following operations or injury."
Martin Häusling, shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group, advises the Dutch to treat AMR as a priority, highlighting that; "Given the huge importance of fighting antimicrobial resistance, every month counts."
He points out that although the European Parliament's lead committees will vote on their position in February, a final Council position seems a long way off. Common action on an EU level is, "an absolute necessity in this fight; farm animals, humans and germs do not stop at borders."
The German MEP also wants to see an "EU-wide data collection system on the sale and use of antimicrobial veterinary medicines to identify misuse and to measure effective and significant reduction in the use of antibiotics." He points to the European Parliament's amendments on the subject.